As a small girl, Liesl played with an imaginary friend, a version of Der Erlkönig from the stories. As she got older, her memories of this friend died. Now her sister is due to be married and her brother is poised to start an apprenticeship in the thing they love most; music. Just as she is started to feel left behind, her sister goes missing. Her grandmother has warned of such things but she always thought those were just stories. Now, she must rescue her sister before it’s too late.

The further away from mortality he grew, the more capricious and cruel he became, forgetting what it was like to live and love.

There is something quite folk tale like in the way Wintersong is written and it’s wonderfully evocative of the woods and nature. It’s a story of two parts, it almost feels as if it is coming to an end about half way through and then it goes in a different direction. It is part fantasy, part romance. There’s a hint of Brothers Grimm (the unsanitised originals) and a dash of Labyrinth.

Der Erlkönig is originally a German poem, often set to music. It transpires that the Goblin King is a fan of music too, and was drawn to Liesl for her talent. The story also seems to be set in Germany, albeit in the past. I don’t think the country is mentioned but Austria is. This retelling feels like it has aspects of Greek myth intertwined too, although I can imagine many cultures have tales of the underworlds, stolen maidens and the transition from winter to spring. For without the girls he takes, the land above will be in an eternal winter, kind of the opposite of Persephone’s myth.

Liesl is drawn to the Goblin King by a desire to be wanted. She feels like she’s the plain one, always overlooked. He may have a history of luring maidens into the underworld but he is also a charming person in a position of power. There are many women who see the attraction of that, especially when they have poor self-esteem. So, the central relationship may be a bit problematic, especially considering he practically kidnaps her sister first. It’s not something that’s particularly unusual in adult fantasy though, and it will depend on whether you expect young adult fiction to set an example or just tell a story.

What I wouldn’t have given to taste that fruit, that heady sweetness, of being wanted. I wanted. I wanted what Käthe took for granted. I wanted wantonness.

The sex scenes are a bit flowery but I guess it’s done in a way to not be explicit. There’s nothing that actually says they have sex, just lots of euphemisms and romanticised language. I did like her goblin attendants, they off-set the main characters a bit, with some attitude and mischief. Overall I really enjoyed it and it’s good to have a standalone.

Wintersong is published by Titan Books and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 7th February 2017. Thanks go to the publishers for providing a copy for review. The blog tour is stopping by on the 13th, so come back then to find out about JJ’s favourite character.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.